Strawberry Fields

Photo courtesey of Wholesale of void, some rights reserved

My first garden party of the summer was in aid of a good friend’s thirtieth birthday party and had a ’round the world’ theme (i went as Willy Fogg by the way and came second in the fancy dress contest – thanks Mr & Mrs Cooke!).

I was asked if I could provide one or two drinks for the occasion that could be easily scaled up and served to a group of around forty people. Happy to oblige I combined a classic Barbadian rhyme* and some typically English ingredients to create a summer punch which was duly christened ‘Strawberry Fields’.

I made this in litre-jug sized batches, but the proportions below will work just as well glass by glass:

  1. Muddle a few leaves of mint and one strawberry (per serving) in the bottom of a mixing glass.
  2. Add four parts cold Earl Grey tea, three parts gin, two parts strawberry syrup and one part freshly squeezed lime juice.
  3. Add ice and stir well.
  4. Strain into a highball glass and garnish with a strawberry.
* The rhyme in case you were wondering is the old Bajan basis for a traditional rum punch “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak”.  For the rum punch it refers to lime juice, sugar, rum and water in that order (served with a dash or two of Angostura bitters and nutmeg, which don’t make the rhyme) but can easily be transposed to a whole range of other ingredients.
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London Fog

Photo by jaybergesen, some rights reserved

I’ve been travelling to London a lot for work recently, and can vouch for the continued subsistence of the famous London fog.  There are few feelings more evocative of classic British dramas than those of walking over London Bridge, trench-coat tightly belted, with the view of the Thames largely obscured by the swirling mists.  While the millions of chimneys no longer belch out the sulphur dioxide that gave the smog of the 1950s its poisonous edge, this drink’s namesake is still alive and well.

Those of you living a fair way from London this winter can recreate the effect by making the following drink, holding it up to the light and imagining you are surrounded by its vapours:

  1. Fill a rocks glass with crushed ice.
  2. Add 1 measure of London dry gin, 2 measures of chilled water and 1 measure of pastis.
  3. Stir well and top with ice.
  4. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

London Fog is also a non-alcoholic hot drink made with Earl Grey, steamed milk and vanilla syrup and a pea and ham soup (recipe not included):

  1. Make an Earl Grey concentrate by steeping one teabag in half a cup of boiling water for 4 minutes.
  2. Warm half a cup of milk.
  3. Combine the tea concentrate and warm milk.
  4. Add a dash of vanilla syrup.

London Fog may also be familiar from a series three episode of Mad Men where Don and Sal come up with a new tagline – “Limit your exposure” for the American-based waterproof coat maker.

Earl Grey Daiquiri

Photo courtesy of StuartWebster, some rights reserved

The Daiquiri is a sub-category of the sours group of cocktails, and is constructed from the simple combination of rum, lime juice (or lemon, once upon a time) and sugar.

Invented in Santiago, Cuba; the Daiquiri owes much of its reputation to Ernest Hemingway.  Upon moving to Cuba in 1932 to escape the horrors of Prohibition, Hemingway fell in love with Daiquiri Number Three as served in Constantino Ribalaigua’s El Floridita, the bar now known as the self-appointed ‘cradle of the Daiquiri’.

However, Hemingway’s favourite version was far removed from the traditional white rum, lemon and sugar concoction that was first served back in the 1890s. For a start, Hemingway was diabetic and therefore wary of drinks made with added sugar. Secondly, the addition of grapefruit juice will appeal only to those who prefer a super sour flavour profile. In my mind grapefruit juice is solely reminiscent of those bleary-eyed mornings in a continental hotel where you end up sucking your cheeks in after opting for the wrong jug at the breakfast buffet.

However, Hemingway’s endorsement and the mass exodus of wealthy Americans to Cuba during the dark days following the Volstead Act were enough to create a buzz around the concept of the Daiquiri.  Following on from the rich tradition of El Floridita #1 through #3, we now live in a world where Daiquiri possibilities are so endless that “drive-through Daiquiri joints are ubiquitous” in Louisiana.

The Daiquiri has proved to be a versatile canvas for the cocktail boomers of recent years. But while Difford’s #9 contains just over one hundred Daiquiri variants from Acapulco, Ace of Clubs and Aged Honey through to the Vanilla, Very Rusty and Whoop It Up varieties, the Savoy Cocktail Book contains just the one and I think it’s fair to say that a number of the current crop were born in the dark days of sparklers, blue curaçao and umbrellas (see the frozen puréed fruit varieties in particular).

At its heart, the Daiquiri is best made as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of white rum, the juice of half a lime and a barspoon of simple syrup to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Of course some flavoured Daiquiris can be acceptable and even quite pleasant. Consider using aged rum for a richer taste, or branch out to the other end of the spectrum and make a Hemingway Daiquiri to punish your taste buds:

  1. Add an extra large measure of rum, one measure each of pink grapefruit juice, maraschino and fresh lime juice, and an optional half a measure of simple syrup, to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime

However, I was making Earl Grey syrup the other weekend, and couldn’t resist the opportunity to experiment.

The Earl Grey Daiquiri, therefore:

  1. Add a large measure of rum, four bar spoons of Earl Grey Syrup and the juice of half a lime to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a wedge of lime (perched on the edge of the glass).

Much better.

Earl Grey Syrup

Regular readers may have noticed that in the early days of this site I used a lot of tea. Mainly tea-infused vermouth, but also tea-infused bourbon. I stuck mainly to green tea, chai and peppermint, but deep down inside what I really wanted to make was an Earl Grey Old Fashioned. An Earl Grey Old Fashioned and an Earl Grey Martini. I tried the former on Earl Grey’s birthday, but found that using Earl Grey infused whiskey made the drink too bitter. The solution was simple. Earl Grey Syrup.

I have already explained the basics behind home-made simple syrup, and a tea-infused syrup is no more complicated than this, you just use tea instead of water.

My Earl Grey syrup was made like this:

  1. Soak a teaspoon of loose leaf Earl Grey tea in 200ml of warm water for an hour. You can use a bag if you must, but I used Jeeves and Jericho’s Earl of Grey (at least in part because I love the colour of the cornflower petals).
  2. Pour the tea into a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Leave the bag/loose tea in the pan.
  3. Add 100g of sugar and simmer for ten minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat. Double strain and pour into a clean (sterile) bottle.

The syrup should keep for about a month if refrigerated. If you add a dash of vodka to the bottle it will keep even longer.

Camomile Manhattan

Having taken delivery of more loose leaf tea from the jolly good fellows at Jeeves and Jericho, I spent my Friday afternoon infusing some bourbon.

This time my order from Oxford’s finest tea-mongers consisted of:

  • 65g of Earl of Grey (for Earl Grey Old Fashioneds)
  • 75g of Dales Brew (for drinking with my Yorkshire buddies)
  • 20g Camomile Blossom
  • 20g Mojito Mint

Perhaps counter-intuitively given the name, my first infusion was four teaspoons of Mojito Mint in 200ml of Jim Beam White Label for one hour to create a Peppermint Bourbon for use in Mint Juleps.

At the same time, I opted for the same ratio of Camomile to Jim Beam to create 200ml of a versatile Camomile Bourbon for use in exotic Manhattans and Whiskey Sours.

The Camomile Manhattan I tried last night was a resounding success:

  1. Add a large measure of Camomile Bourbon, a measure of sweet vermouth and a measure of triple sec to a mixing glass 3/4 full of ice.
  2. Add two splooshes of orange bitters.
  3. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with a twist of orange.

Next up, once I get my hand on some decent Sherry, is La Valencia – stay tuned.

Earl Grey Old Fashioned

Portrait of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today is Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey’s birthday, or at least it would have been had he not died in 1845.  Earl Grey was British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834, and is credited with the creation of the tea that still bears his name.  While many stories circulate, it appears that Earl Grey was gifted some black tea flavoured with bergamot, and it made such an impression upon him that he called upon his local grocer, Jacksons of Picadilly, to reproduce the striking citrus flavour.  Sometime thereafter, due to its popularity, Twinings approached the Grey family and received their consent to market the tea more widely, and a classic infusion was born.

Following on from last week’s experiments in tea-infused vermouth then, this recipe is for an Earl Grey Old Fashioned, a perfect toast for the man himself, as the orange and cherry flavours of the classic old fashioned are beautifully offset by the hint of bergamot orange provided by the tea.  Proceed as follows:

  1. Infuse one teaspoon of loose leaf Earl Grey tea per 50ml of whiskey.  Leave for thirty minutes and then strain.
  2. Muddle one sugar cube, three splooshes of orange bitters, and some water in a rocks glass.
  3. Add a handful of ice and a large measure of Earl Grey-infused whiskey.
  4. Stir gently and garnish with a twist of orange peel.